David Stamps

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood …”

Perhaps the event with the greatest impact on my self-esteem was in July of 2015 when a visit to the AANE offices confirmed my suspicion that I had Asperger’s. This the summer of my sixty-ninth year on the planet Earth. Heretofore I was not even sure I belong on planet Earth, or anywhere else for that matter.

I was a college dropout; a social dropout; a recovering alcoholic; in my third marriage and that was shaky. Although I had developed some good executive function and coping mechanism, I didn’t know why was different. I didn’t know why I didn’t fit in. I didn’t know why people, at best, thought I was odd.

I grew up in a highly dysfunctional family. When I dropped out of college at 18, I could not visualize a future for myself. Nothing made sense so I literally went to work with my hands: cutting brush, working in warehouses, driving trucks etc. I did find that I was highly skilled in learning different trades and discovered I had a well-developed mechanical aptitude.

From the time I was an adolescent to dropping out of college I developed more and more pain; and more and more anger; even becoming suicidal at times. In college, I began drinking and drugging to dull the pain and achieve a respite from the anger. Obviously, this respite doesn’t last in the long run but it was my only surcease. I am lucky to be alive to write these words.

When I was thirty-two, I was fortunate to be living in Cambridge where I discovered computer programming. Even though it would be another ten years before I conquered alcohol, I had at last found something that I could enjoy and earn a living – though I still didn’t know why I couldn’t get along with anyone else where I worked.

Thirty-seven years later, I finally found out why I couldn’t get along. “… And that has made all the difference.” Dictionary.com defines self-esteem as “1. A realistic respect for or favorable impression of oneself, self-respect.” Self-esteem, for me, came from finally understanding. It obviously doesn’t solve all my problems-far from it but now I feel ok about that.

In the meantime, I attend the monthly over 50 support group at AANE to help understand the subtleties of my condition and share insights with others.